'Mad Men' writer visits Syracuse University

SU alum Chris Provenzano finds success as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

As a writer for the first season of "Mad Men," it almost drove Chris Provenzano crazy.

"It was very, very intense," Provenzano said of working in the "Mad Men" writers' room. "(On the show) everyone is so terrible to everyone else ... and the demand was to pull the most terrible stories from your own life. I found it a hard place to spend most of my waking hours."

Provenzano wrote two episodes of the show and left after the first season. He hasn't watched the show since, citing his somewhat rocky relationship with show creater Matthew Weiner. "I'm Sicilian so I hold grudges," he joked.

A 1995 alumnus of the television, radio and film program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Provenzano is a former student of professor Robert Thompson, who introduced the screenwriter at an informal talk held in the I3 Center to about 40 students and faculty members Tuesday. "There's no way I could write a script even 2 percent as good (as Provenzano)," Thompson said.

Provenzano's career has been a decade in the making. The key to making it as a writer in the filmmaking industry is patience, he said. "The notion of a 10-year overnight successs very, very true," Provenzano said. "There were so many roads to Damascus and the way I did it was very long but I made it."

At the start of his career, Provenzano worked as an intern at CNBC. Even though it wasn't what he wanted to do, he used the oppotunity as a stepping stone in the industry. "Everything you do, try to see it as a learning experience - even if it's close to what you want to do," he said.

He got his start writing for "Talk Soup" in 2001 while writing on-air promotions for E!. He also wrote the script for "Get Low," the 2010 film starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek.

Most recently, Provenzano worked as a writer for the FX television network show "Justified." He is currently working on an episode of "Archer," an animated series, also on FX, and his first pilot for NBC.

Eager students sought Provenzano's advice for making it as a writer in Hollywood. He stressed the importance of making connections and having a backlog of ideas and scripts in case an opportunity comes along. "Luck favors the prepared," he said. "Do what you want to do -- tenacity will get you there."

Photo courtesy of Wire Images





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